A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.

Saturday, February 14, 2004  

Also, I know the Forward is slow on the uptake at times but how did it take them three weeks to realize that Mikey Butler passed away? If it wasn't big enough news for them to have reported on or heard of in a timely manner, isn't it presumptuous of them to write it up as though it mattered to them?

posted by Sam | 11:04 PM |

Proving both that I should be hanging out in YU more often and that I should be paying more regular attention to Chakira - he reports that R' Mayer Twersky blasted the cardinals' visit to the YU BM in a mussar shmooze last week. He can provide no details, and I can certainly do no better. Anyone out there have more info?

Also, apparently there's a potential gay scandal brewing in the cauldron of the gym's hot tub.
Gays in YU? Who knew?

posted by Sam | 10:59 PM |

After I was done cataloguing last week's Boteach event, I packed up my stuff, but a conversation between him and Jake Berkman, a reporter, followed that really illuminated Boteach's motivations here. To paraphrase, he said he felt that Christians are our friends and friends of Israel, and that he appreciated that, but that if there was going to be this cooperation, it was going to be on his terms, not the Christians'.
Boteach's efforts here touch on many current topics.
The most obvious is the interaction between Jews and evangelicals in the first; it's a team created entirely for the political expedience of the right-wing agenda in Israel, and that hasn't found much common ground at all on other issues (with the slight exception of some few J-orgs on gay marriage in the States).
The second is interreligious dialogue on matters of faith. While it's possible that Boteach's debate still falls within the guidelines set by R' Soloveitchik, it is clear that at the least he stretched the allowable limits as far as they could go, and the result was, well, pretty tough to swallow.
The third is the limits of open dialogue. What is undeniable is that the vast majority, if not the entirety, of affiliated Jewry denies the legitimacy of the New Testament as a document of either legitimate history or faith. It's quite clear that my bias, and the bias of those I most agree with, is towards an openness regarding Jewish text, belief and practice. Are we then lying or denying the essential legitimacy of this approach if we don't engage as Boteach did? I say "no," because part and parcel of engaging in responsible discourse is a sense of respect for the deep-seatedness of faith, reliant upon belief as it is.
Additional links relating to the debate can be found here.
Having read Berkman's story from this week's New Jersey Jewish Standard (not online), it's also clear that Boteach was trying to be an anti-missionary. There's something to be said for such activity, and Boteach cited as evidence his claim that he'd received many inquiries from Messianic Jews immediately following the debate. This is a larger topic for a later post.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:29 PM |

Thursday, February 12, 2004  

Seforim Sale preparation post: Looking through the site and the catalogs therein, what are people finding to be the best deals, in comparison with their local stores? What are the worst?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:15 PM |

Chakira follow-up on the Nosson Slifkin "controversy." As I've said before, there's most likely no substance at all to whatever attacks are being launched, and they're presumably of someone on the extreme fringe; the story's relevant in that it helps us understand how often some radicals are letting to let their heresy flag fly.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:10 PM |

So it turns out that the Barney's Warehouse Sale this year is running on precisely the same days as the Seforim Sale. So sundry hockers will have to choose between buying seforim they don't know how to read and buying clothes they don't know how to wear; what will they choose?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:10 PM |

Dating Theory is a new blog wherein the unfortunately-anonymous "Mike" discusses his views on dating. You've gotta love the sincerity with which he explains:

Many guys who arent exactly attractive, or are just otherwise low on the social scale will ask "but moshe is an ugly nerd, and he got a hot girl, so why shouldnt i be able to get a hot girl?" The answer to this is, or course, that moshe has some other factor that compensates for his lack of physical beauty. In most cases this will be money (or parents money). Sometimes, it comes in the form of intelligence, humor, or even confidence, but will usually be money. In any event, the fact that you asked such a whiny and stupid question is indicative of the fact that you dont possess any of these compensating qualities.
Is this the cure to the sickness of End the Madness that was previously touted as a cure to the disease inhabiting the Jewish love and marriage world? No, not in the least, but it might get to be kind of funny.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:05 PM |

Speaking of polls, the Jerusalem Post has a pretty hilarious one up:

Should Israel send a bombed-out bus to the Hague?
The problem with this poll is that the answers lack nuance. My suggestions:
-Yes, with corpses inside.
-Yes, without corpses.
-No, but we should broadcast that gruesome video.
-No, because I thought our whole plan was to indicate that this ICJ thing is a farce, so showing involvement only legitimizes it, right?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:49 AM |

We all always get tons of e-mails about this or that online poll about Israel, urging us to vote one way or another. Generally, I couldn't care much less about such polls, I never vote in them, and I never post about them. When the intentions of the site running the poll are so blatant, however, it's often fun to try to disrupt their effort.
The Toronto Globe & Mail's homepage is running a poll asking:

Should all financial and political aid to Israel be cut off until a just peace with the Palestinians is in place?
The nay votes are currently outnumbered by roughly 1,300, so the Protocols readership today alone should be able to make the G&M a bit unhappy.
There was an online poll run recently by some British media organization that asked for a piece of legislation for an MP to sponsor, and the audience chose something about protecting oneself against criminals, and the MP and the media org were pissed. I can't find any info about it, but it was pretty funny. So go vote at the G&M and make some Canadians somewhat morose.
UPDATE: Okay, so they've changed the poll, presumably in response to the e-mails they've been getting (I say "changed the poll" as opposed to "posted a new one" because: 1) it happened mid-day; 2) I'm told I've already voted in this poll when I head there; 3) Given the scattershot topics of other polls, it seems highly unlikely they'd do two different polls with such a similar question back-to-back). Here's the new one:
In order to spur parties to a peace settlement in the Middle East, would you:
-Cut off aid to Israel
-Cut off aid to the Palestinians
-Cut off aid to both
-Continue the present course
What's the obsession with aid? Do they honestly think that's the main issue at hand? And, come on, what proportion of aid could Canadians possibly be contributing?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:51 AM |

Wednesday, February 11, 2004  

So the Queer Eye meme really is spreading, now to "Blacks" telling "Honkies" how to be cool. I had thought that Bangitout had done a Top Ten list with a Queer Eye theme, but apparently not. Anyway, it seems somewhat inevitable that if the reality television locomotive keeps rolling along, it'll be pulling up at a Jewish station near you sometime soon. What might that look like?
Righteous Eye for the Boteach Guy: Radical Jews, pissed-off with the Kosher Sex rabbi's antics, redecorate his office...with fire.
Secular Israeli Teenager Eye for the American Yeshiva Guy: Knowledgeable youngsters give talmidim special lessons in the benefits that the privacy of bomb shelters provides.
Grama Eye for the Gentile Guy: The entire hour consists of the star avoiding non-Jews.
Foxman Eye for the Gibson Guy: The ADL head's true motivation for criticizing The Passion is revealed as he signs an agreement promising to rip up all of his press releases in exchange for the lead role in Gibson's upcoming production of Hello, Dolly!
Hocker Eye for the Academic Guy: Utility-belted fellows invade the Jewish Studies library to instruct in the arts of cellphone dependence, declaring "I have my sources," and caring emphatically about everything unimportant.
Lubavitch Eye for the Berger Guy: Ten episodes, one goal: David Berger's bowing before a picture of the deceased R' Schneerson.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:01 PM |

Kosher Lamp is a new invention to use on Shabbos. (Thanks, Avi)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:56 PM |

The best coverage of the Israeli earthquake -- including soundtrack details -- is over at AKS.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:07 AM |

Tuesday, February 10, 2004  

A portion of the standing-room-only crowd.
I'm at the Boteach event, and it's so far little on substance, but heavy on shock. There are lots of religious Christians and Lubavitch Jews and others least 600 people. I missed the entirety of Brown's opening. There's a wacky kid in the entrance area going around screaming that "Shmuley Bo-teech" has been kicked out of Lubavitch; he didn't have any literature left by the time I arrived.
Boteach's speech will shock you. In sum: the Jews didn't kill Jesus, and Peter was a liar. The Christians in the audience are outraged. Free-associated references to Jews and Christians being friends. The Passion "is a lie" and unnecessary in a day when we're past pogroms and so forth. He's quoting the New Testament a ton, basically arguing Christian theology to an audience of Christians. He's softening them up now with lots of jokes. His argument states that Jesus was a great rabbi whose teachings were corrupted by the Romans. He ends with a declaration about the relevance of this discussion, saying that it's not about the repercussions of the film, "The stakes are whether a great 1st century rabbi will be remembered for what he was: a man of peace and a man of love."
Brown rises and immediately responds that all of Shmuley's quotations are taken out of context. "We as Jews," he repeatedly invokes, with one such invocation being about not censoring others' religious texts.
Boteach continues with the idea that Christian texts were corrupted, and I think if he has a main reason for being here it comes in his long conclusion to this portion where he proclaims the wrong with Christian missionizing of denying the idea that a Christian god loves him as a Jew. "I don't believe in spiritual racism," he declares.
Brown starts off the breakdown session by saying that he can't begin a dialogue where the opening premise is that Christian text is corrupted; Boteach responds that he refuses to acknowledge as legitimate a corrupted text that has been utilized to destroy his people.
Interviews with attendees:

Alex, from Upstate NY
Jessibel, from Queens
Why did you come here? J: We heard about it from our college...A: I'd never been to a debate before, so this was my first time. What religion are you? We're Christian.
What did you get out of this event? J: I would say for me it kind of opened my mind a bit more. To hear it for myself from a rabbi, what they think.
What has this event done for your perspective on Jews? A: I think I've always had a positive view of Jews...I know that many others have had hatred...but I know that my Christianity...tells us to love everyone.
J: My attitude's always been positive, it's just a little more information. I just got a little bit more knowledge.
What did this event do for you religiously?A: It reaffirmed my faith as a Christian...after listening to both speakers, I understand that a lot of it was taken out of context...I was following along in the Bible, it's important to look at the context.
Tell me about your religious outlook. A: I was saved at the age of 7...I really don't believe in denominations...I don't even like the word Christian, because it kind of separates you from everyone else.
J: Pentecostal Church...growing up I just had this mindset of, why...calling myself Pentecostal...
What was your experience with Jews and Judaism prior to this event? J: My dad was a security...we always had a lot of Jewish friends...holidays he would go and work with them...I converse with them, I talk them.
A: My exposure has been small...the Jews that I have been exposed to have been mostly messianic Jews.
Baruch, Lubavitch - Brooklyn Wouldn't be photographed.
How is it that you came here? I saw the ad in the paper, and it seemed it would interest was a fascinating subject, b/c I've heard so much about this movie...I wanted to see how people are taking the views of leaders...
What did you get out of this event?Pretty much how everyone is set in their ways and it doesn't seem it's gonna sway anyone's opinion...
What do you think was the impact of this event? Neutral...
What do you think of Boteach's arguing New Testament theology? I feel he was 100% correct in his arguments.

Verna, Messianic Jew - East Brunswick, NJ
How long have you been a Messianic Jew?17.5 years...
And what were you before that?Jewish, atheist...
How is it that you came to this event?A woman in Monday night Bible study told us about it last night...
And why did you come?Because I wanted to pray for it and to understand, to see how such a discussion would work itself out. How the truth would deal with contentiousness.
Were you familiar with Dr. Brown?I knew nothing about's about the Truth versus lies...I agree with him totally...
What did you get out of this event?I see the hatred coming out of the opposition of the Rabbi Shmuley which is apalling...
What did you think of his New Testament argumentation? Highly flawed, given to distortion.
Do you think this event was, on the whole, positive or negative?If it raises people's desire to know the truth, it's good for them, but if it blinds them further, it's bad for them.
She concluded with a desire to quote Romans 8:28; I'll add a link to the verse later.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:23 PM |

If all works out, I'll be blogging the Boteach event tonight.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:45 PM |

The first report of a potentially controversial book at the Seforim Sale comes from Chakira, who saw a fax from some rabbi worried about Zoo Torah's Nosson Slifkin's new book, Mysterious Creatures. If Slifkin is notorious for anything, it's for being not-notorious, so I'd be very surprised if anything he says is really worthy of anyone's ire, and I'd be similarly surprised if anyone decided to really start making a big deal about one of his books.
So far as I can tell, the volume has not been added to the Seforim Sale's catalog, so I don't know how much it's selling for, but retail is $22.45, according to Targum.
Of course, if anybody's seen a similar fax, or heard of anybody really being worried about this book, please contribute your knowledge via the comments below.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:45 PM |

We now know that there may be life after the ADL for the organization’s leadership. If things don’t work out there, they can head west and become Hollywood publicists:

The movie that couldn't find a distributor a year ago is now poised to become this year's first surprise hit.
Though not a single television ad has aired for "The Passion of the Christ" two weeks before its release, Mel Gibson (news)'s depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus is eclipsing mainstream Hollywood fare in audience interest.
Fostered by wide media coverage... "Passion" is registering numbers on recent surveys by Nielsen NRG that suggest an opening in the $15 million-$30 million range.
The film, and the controversy over whether it is anti-Semitic, has kept the media's attention on "Passion."
"It's one of the most talked about films since the first 'Star Wars' prequel," said Exhibitor Relations prexy Paul Dergarabedian.
The anti-Semitism debate has probably helped the pic, he said.
Tracking numbers on "Passion" are a far cry from the dismal commercial expectations once widely held, even by Gibson himself. At a 2002 press conference announcing the project, he said, "No one wants to touch something in two dead languages. They think I'm insane --- maybe I am."
Last week, online ticket seller Fandango reported that "Passion" tickets accounted for 43% of all its sales.
One exec predicted, "I personally think it's going to do $100 million-plus."

posted by Pinchas | 11:32 AM |

Eugene Volokh takes issue with conservative ideas about homosexuality violating the natural order, as well as with the overreaching by liberals to indicate it's a larger part of the natural order than it likely is. He also takes issue with the very premise of learning morality from animals. This begs the question: is there any issue other than sexuality in which we find conservatives drawing lessons from what animals do? I can't think of any off-hand.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:49 AM |

8:15 a.m. -- "Sopranos'' Jamie-Lyn DiScala helps commuters pen the perfect Valentine's Day Card; Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall, off 42nd Street.
Nee Jamie-Lyn Sigler, natch.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- Former Israeli and American government security experts conduct seminar on terrorism and personal safety for corporations and the public.
10:30 a.m. -- Congressman Vito Fosella joins Jewish leaders to speak out against United Nations' attempt to block Israel from constructing a security fence; Jewish Community Center, 1297 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:54 AM |

Monday, February 09, 2004  

The JTA believes in resurrection. Or something like that. Village Idiot Menachem notices their reporting that Rav Kook gave semicha three years after he died. According to some quick Google-searching, Rabbi Samuel Lerer does indeed seem to have received semicha in 1938, but I haven't found any claims other than by the JTA that it was delivered by the deceased Kook.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:22 PM |

Reader Shaya sends in a link to settlers selecting a beauty queen, 15-year-old Natali Mizrahi.

Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman told reporters the world visualized settlers as wearers of Orthodox skullcaps and carrying a gun "but this event shows the whole world that we are normal people exactly like everyone else...and want to live in peace."
Call me crazy, but I don't see crowning a 15-year-old as a beauty queen helping a whole lot to change their primitive image for the better. And, hey, guns don't kill people, people kill people.
PR campaigns using beauties to advertise a group's civility is growing: Miss Afghanistan gave it a shot.
I'm not too happy about this story being categorized under "Oddly Enough." The territories aren't Afghanistan, after all.
UPDATE: Ephraim IMs a link to her pic.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:53 PM |

Gregg Easterbrook is angry about the National Prayer Breakfast. Read the whole thing for a very good post, but I'm curious as to how he jibes his opposition to public prayer with his membership in a church. The Bradley Hills Church website (very slow-loading) mentions regular "Worship Services"; the word "prayer" only appears under the heading "Classical Worship." I've sent an e-mail to Easterbrook asking for more info.
Meantime, his quotation of Matthew seems pretty relevant today, according to at least some of our readers:

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:36 PM |

EuroTrash e-mails in a link to Anne Frank fan-fiction. None of it will win any literature awards.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:23 AM |

So if you were worried about the yetzer hora of internet porn, fret no more. Di Elter Brider Kikzich.
I'm signing up, and sending all my usage info to Steven I.
My favorite part? This bit:

After extensive research we now are offering you the best products available for your Internet safety.
Please give us a call to discuss the right one for you.
These programs does not in any way take away or minimize the tekanah of lock & key, that children should not have access to a computer.
Would you have a poisonous snake roaming around freely in your house because it is programmed and trained not to byte, would you??
We still strongly recommend NOT having Internet at all!!!
All the programs listed, reporting programs and filters should be installed by your accountability partner.
you should never know the password so you wont be able to remove them (except for Report Your Eyes)
where your partner gets notified by email that you are uninstalling the program.
If you don't have someone to come down to your place to install the program, I could set everything up on line and email you the program ready to use. You won't know the password.
Now all we need is a shmira for bad blogs....

posted by Sam | 9:53 AM |

Bangitout: Top Ten Reasons Joe Lieberman Dropped Out.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:29 AM |

The Seforim Sale's website is partially up, as is a partial catalog. We'll be talking about this a lot in coming weeks.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:22 AM |

Sunday, February 08, 2004  

9:15 a.m. -- U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige visits a Jewish day school to discuss character education and tolerance; Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School, 164 E. 68th St.
11:30 a.m. -- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Dr. Michael Brown ask ``who really killed Jesus?'' in response to the upcoming release of Mel Gibson's film ``The Passion''; Hilton New York, 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, Concourse C.
1 p.m. -- Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue, and Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg, the chief rabbi of Austria, host a preview of the ``Jewish Vienna'' photo exhibition; Park East Synagogue, 164 E. 68th St.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:40 PM |

Update on the Brill petition:

134 signatures. Overwhelming, really.
Some celebrity signatories thus far:

Ellen Katz Berkovitch Director, Kavvanah Center for Jewish Thought and Spirituality
Louis H. Feldman Abraham Wouk Family Professor of Classics and Literature, Yeshiva University
Arie Folger Rabbi of Basel, Switzerland
Eliyahu Stern YC 02', RIETS O4', M.A. BRGS 04'

Where's the YU faculty when you need them?

posted by Sam | 4:31 PM |

From today's Slate: Adam Kirsch assesses the state of heaven in contemporary American culture.

posted by Sam | 11:56 AM |
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